Congratulations ! You’ve got the love of your life by your side and the ring of your dreams on your finger. You’re ready to plan the happiest day of your life! Unless, like me, you started planning before the ring made its appearance. (Long story short, it got lost in the mail. Twice.)
Weddings are truly wonderful. They mark the beginning of one of the most profound commitments that can be made between two people. They are a jumping-off point. The commencement of a deep partnership that requires equal measures of laughter, honesty, and selflessness in order to flourish. There are tears of joy, toasts, and words of wisdom aplenty. Everybody is there for the same reason: to celebrate the unique relationship of two people they love.
But weddings can also be expensive and feel generic or extravagant. Planning a party for potentially hundreds of guests is no easy task. There are traditions and etiquette to consider, as well as the pressure to meet the expectations of others. Concessions may be made to appease the feelings of a distant great aunt-in-law. A particularly opinionated bridesmaid might be deciding just how to tell you what she really thinks about the dresses you chose. You’ll even have to make time to strategize how to pull off that perfect Instagram of your first kiss as a married couple (tagged with your wedding day hashtag, of course). What starts out as a genuine celebration of love has the potential to become a $30,000 minefield of stress, impossible standards, and even debt.
It’s all too easy to get bogged down by the pressure that comes along with being a newly-minted fiancé. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Gone are the days of generic ceremonies and stuffy traditions. By making conscious choices that are the best for you and your beloved throughout the entire planning process, you will be laying the groundwork for how you want the day to look, feel, and (my favorite part!) taste. And by choosing fair trade, sustainable, and local options whenever possible, you can walk down the aisle knowing your future, and the future of many others, will be brighter.
Start working on that wedding hashtag, because the fun is about to begin! Over the next several weeks, I’ll break down some of the best ways to be a conscious bride and to plan a socially conscious wedding that truly reflects your unique relationship. Because, let’s face it. At the end of the party, the marriage truly begins. It’s worth starting the first day of the rest of your life off on the right foot.
Planning a Socially Conscious Wedding:
It’s likely that you know every single person that you are inviting to your wedding. Except, that is, for the odd cousin-in-law that only attends events that are catered, or a short-notice Plus One. Why host a party for a bunch of hungry strangers? It stands to reason that if we know who we’ve invited to our socially conscious wedding, we would also benefit from knowing the people who put us in a festive party mood. And if we want our guests to leave feeling loved and respected, we should desire the same for those whose work made the day possible. When we know who made our dress, where our jewelry came from, and how the beer was brewed, we recognize that we are a part of something bigger.
We have the opportunity to cast a vote for a better world with every purchase we make.
It’s an opportunity to make your own community stronger, as well as encourage opportunities for your neighbors around the world. Basically, it’s a wedding win-win!
So, without further ado, here are the top ways you can plan a wedding that puts people and their communities first, without sacrificing style:
1. Choose a Fair Trade Wedding Dress.
Yes, ethically made wedding dresses do exist, and they are absolutely stunning. Celia Grace was created after the founder, Marcie Muehlke, planned her own wedding and couldn’t find an ethically made gown to wear down the aisle. She went on to create a wedding dress line dedicated to developing the lives of the seamstresses who craft the gowns while keeping environmental sustainability in mind. Each dress is handmade to fair trade standards. And you can find designs that are dramatically elegant, unique and playful, and everything in between.
2. Choose Fair Trade Bridesmaid Dresses.
If you’ve ever been a bridesmaid, then you’ve probably heard the line, “I want the dress to be something you’ll wear again!” I’ve been a bridesmaid a number of times, and I’ve never worn any of the dresses (although they were all gorgeous) again. Not once. Consider Mata Traders for your bridesmaids if your wedding is more of a laid-back affair. Their dresses are all Fair Trade, handmade in India and Nepal, and vintage-inspired. They are also really reasonably priced, which in the world of wedding planning is rare indeed. Believe me, your bridesmaids will actually want to wear these again.
3. Choose Fair Trade Accessories.
You’ve got the dress. Now it’s time to accessorize! Finding that piece that’s really going to bring out the hazel in your eyes, set off your perfectly styled hair, and generally cause jaws to drop is so much fun! It’s also a wonderful opportunity to wear something unique. Fair Trade jewelry is created by highly skilled makers all over the world. The workshops are often small (and sometimes even in the artisan’s home), and each piece is made lovingly by hand. You can be sure that you won’t be wearing something that has been seen before. The craftsmanship and materials guarantee each piece’s uniqueness, and fair trade standards ensure safe working environments and fair wages for the maker. You will feel beautiful inside and out.
4. Choose Locally Sourced Beer, Wine, and Food.
These days, every town seems to have a craft brewery or a local winery (or, if you’re lucky, both). For this I am abundantly grateful, and you should be too! If you choose to serve alcohol at your wedding, why not offer local beer and wine to your guests? The same goes with the food. It’s a great way to support your community and it’s a quick and delicious means of introducing your out-of-town guests to the place you love. Each region has its own flavor, be it barbecue and bourbon stout or fresh crab cakes and chardonnay. Letting local chefs and brew masters show off their skills to your foodie friends is a guaranteed win. You have the added bonus of getting to know who is behind the apron, and if you desire, how the food and beverages you will be serving were sourced.
5. Choose Local Music.
I don’t want to brag or anything, but my wedding music was awesome. It was one of the things we got the most compliments about. My husband and I both really enjoy folk and bluegrass, so we asked a local duo to play during our ceremony and cocktail hour. They graciously agreed, and I had the pleasure of walking down the aisle to the dulcet tones of beautifully played mandolin and guitar. We had an outdoor barbecue wedding, and it set the mood perfectly. The best part was, they stayed for the reception and we got to get to know them a bit.
Supporting local artists is always a good idea. And having original music played by talented musicians is a wonderful way to entertain your guests while showcasing the interests you share as a couple. Maybe you met at jazz club or have a soft spot for blues. Maybe bagpipes are your thing. Chances are, somebody in your area plays the type of music you’re into and would be happy to be hired to play you down the aisle.
6. Choose Local and Seasonal Flowers.
Flowers are a huge part of the ceremony and reception, and rightfully so. They bring a timeless yet fresh beauty to the occasion. And nobody really wants the bride to throw anything other than a bouquet. (Things could get dangerous, especially if she has a good arm.) However, the vast majority of cut flowers sold in America are imported from Colombia and Ecuador and are shipped all the way to the States covered in chemicals and wrapped in unrecyclable plastic. Gorgeous as they may be when they arrive, it isn’t good for the environment, and it certainly isn’t good for the farmers that produce the blooms.
There are organic and fair trade options, such as One World Flowers. You may also have the opportunity to buy flowers that are locally produced and organic. Check out CSAs and farmer’s markets in your area. Many sell locally produced seasonal flowers. If they don’t, it’s worth a phone call anyway. It’s likely that they know all the organic farms in the area, and may be able to refer you to a farmer who specializes in flowers.
7. Choose Vendors That Give Back.
Maybe you don’t have time to search for fair trade flowers. Or maybe the venue you chose for your socially conscious wedding doesn’t allow you to choose your own caterer. Never fear! There are so many other ways to make ethical choices for your wedding day. The Black Sheep Bride is a network connecting brides with vendors that value giving back. Searchable by location, there is a list a of vendors a mile long. It’s definitely worth a look!
Making decisions to plan your socially conscious wedding way is a great start to the rest of your life. Knowing that each choice you make as a couple strengthens communities near and far allows you to be a part of positive change all over the world!